Although fairly small, Banham Zoo is home to more than a thousand animals housed in spacious enclosures. With a strong focus on conservation, visitors are encouraged to not only look at the animals but also to learn more about them.
All the favourites – penguins, big cats, giraffes and seals – are present here, and other highlights include magnificent snow leopards, cheetahs and tigers, as well as some more unusual mammals, such as red pandas and maned wolves. There are many wonderful birds, too, including great grey owls, scarlet ibises, blue and yellow macaws, Chilean flamingoes, bald eagles and vultures. If you visit between Easter and September be sure to catch one of the exciting birds of prey displays, with birds swooping dramatically through the air, sometimes just inches above your head. Another thrilling close-up encounter can be had at the giraffe-viewing platform, where you can feed the giraffes yourself (£7.50 extra). Educating its visitors is important to Banham, a task it accomplishes with regular animal presentations, feeding-time talks, quizzes and games at most enclosures and an education centre where children can hold some of the smaller animals. If you have a head for heights, try Sky Trek, the zoo’s aerial trekking and zip wire (extra cost).
The walkways and paths at Banham Zoo are mainly concrete, which makes walking or wheeling straightforward, and it’s easy to see inside all the enclosures if you’re in a wheelchair. In addition, there are plenty of good, accessible toilets dotted around, though the locks can be a little fiddly. There is a lift in the giraffe house giving access to the first floor, and wheelchairs are available to borrow (£10.00 returnable deposit required): call ahead to book on 01953 887771. A hearing loop is available at the entrance. Less impressive is the fact that the safari road train that transports visitors around the zoo is not wheelchair accessible, the zoo’s woodland walk is unsuitable for wheelchairs, and (like many other zoos) assistance dogs are not allowed on the site. These quibbles aside, however, Banham Zoo makes a very enjoyable and manageable day out for all the family.
Food & drink: The busy, wheelchair accessible Parrot Pavilion café serves tasty hot and cold snacks and light meals, such as Cornish pasties, paninis and jacket potatoes, which come with chips and a drink. Kids’ meals are available, too, and special dietary requirements can be catered for with advance notice. Next door, the Trading Post Coffee Shop makes a quieter spot for a drink and a cake.